Home Articles History Ancient Universities of India apart from Takshashila and Nalanda

Ancient Universities of India apart from Takshashila and Nalanda

Most Indians today are well aware of the two famous ancient universities of India which also are one of the oldest universities in the world – Takshashila University (Taxila) and Nalanda. But are these the only knowledge centers that existed in ancient India? Education has always been given great prominence in Indian society since the times of the vedic civilization, with gurukul and ashrams being the centers of learning. And with evolving times, a large number of centers of learning were established across ancient India of which Takshashila and Nalanda are the most famous ones known today. Below is a list of major ancient universities that flourished across ancient India.

Takshashila University

Taxila as it is called today, Takshashila University established around 2700 years ago was home to over 10500 students where the students from all across the world used to come to attain specialization in over 64 different fields of study like vedas, grammar, philosophy, ayurveda, agriculture, surgery, politics, archery, warfare, astronomy, commerce, futurology, music, dance, etc. Famous graduates of this University include the ones like Chanakya, Panini, Charaka, Vishnu Sharma, Jivaka etc. This is the world’s oldest university. Read more about Takshashila University of Ancient India.

Nalanda University

Nalanda University was established by Shakraditya of Gupta dynasty in modern Bihar during early 5th century and flourished for 600 years till 12th century. Nalanda was the world’s first university to have residential quarters for both students and teachers. It also had large public lecture halls. Students from countries like Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey came to study in this university.

The library of this university was the largest library of the ancient world and had thousands of volumes of manuscripts on various subjects like grammar, logic, literature, astrology, astronomy, and medicine. The library complex was called Dharmaganja, and had three large buildings: the Ratnasagara, the Ratnadadhi, and the Ratnaranjaka. Ratnadadhi was nine stories tall and stored the most sacred manuscripts including the Prajnaparamita Sutra and the Samajguhya.

In 2010, the parliament of India passed a bill approving the plans to restore the ancient Nalanda University as a modern Nalanda International University dedicated for post-graduate research. Many east asian countries including China, Singapore and Japan have come forward to fund the construction of this revived Nalanda University.

Ruins of Nalanda University

Vikramashila University

Vikramashila University was established by Dharmapala of Pala dynasty during late 8th century and flourished for 400 years till 12th century. It was located in the Bhagalpur district of modern day Bihar. It gave direct competition to Nalanda University with over 100 teachers and over 1000 students listed in this University. This university was well known for its specialized training on the subject of Tantra (Tantrism). One of the most popular graduates from this University was Ati?a Dipankara, a founder of the Sharma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism who also revived the Buddhism in Tibet.

Ruins of Vikramashila University

Valabhi University

Valabhi University was established in Saurashtra of modern Gujarat at around 6th century and it flourished for 600 years till 12th century. Chinese traveler Itsing who visited this university during the 7th century describes it as a great center of learning. Gunamati and Sthiramati, the two famous Buddhist scholars are said to have graduated from this University. This University was popular for its training in secular subjects and students from all over the country came to study in this University. Because of its high quality of education, graduates of this University were given higher executive posts.

Pushpagiri University

Pushpagiri University was established in ancient Kalinga kingdom (modern day Odisha) and was spread across Cuttack and Jajpur districts. It was established in 3rd century and flourished for the next 800 years till 11th century. The university campus was spread across three adjoining hills – Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udayagiri. This was one of the most prominent centers of higher education in ancient India along with the universities of Takshashila, Nalanda and Vikramashila. The Chinese traveler Xuanzang (Huien Tsang) visited this university in 639 CE. Lalitgiri is said to have been commissioned by early 2nd century BCE itself and is the oldest Buddhist establishments in the world. Recently a few images of Emperor Ashoka have been discovered here, and it has been suggested that the Pushpagiri University was established by Emperor Ashoka himself.

Odantapuri University

Odantapuri University was established by Dharmapala of Pala dynasty during late 8th century in Magadha (which is in modern day Bihar) and flourished for 400 years till 12th century.  The famous Acharya Sri Ganga who was a professor at the Vikramashila University was a graduate of this Odantapuri University. According to the ancient Tibetan records there were about 12,000 students studying at this University. Ancient Tibetan texts mention this as one among the five great Universities of its time, the other four being Vikramashila, Nalanda, Somapura and Jagaddala Universities – all located in ancient India.

Somapura University

Somapura Mahavihara  was  established by Dharmapala of Pala dynasty during late 8th century in Bengal and flourished for 400 years till 12th century.  The University spread over 27 acres of land of which the main complex was 21 acres was one of the largest of its kind. It was a major center of learning for Bauddha Dharma (Buddhism), Jina Dharma (Jainism) and Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism). Even today one can find ornamental terracotta on its outer walls depicting the influence of these three traditions.

Ruins of Somapura University

Other Ancient Universities

The above mentioned list is not a complete list of ancient Indian universities either. Dharmapala of Pala dynasty alone is said to have established 50 mega learning centers across his kingdom, and they have been as huge and as popular as the ones mentioned above. For instance, the Munshiganj Vihara discovered as recently as Marh 23, 2013 in Bengal is said to have been established in 9th century and was home to 8000 students who came from faraway places like China, Tibet, Nepal and Thailand.

Destruction of Ancient Indian Universities

As you can see, many of the universities mentioned above came to an end around 12th century. The universities like Nalanda, Vikramashila etc were destroyed around this period during the Muslim invasion of India by the fanatic Bakhtiyar Khilji from Turkey in 1193 CE. The great library of Nalanda University was destroyed, ransacked and burnt by the soldiers of Khilji’s army and it is said that it was so vast that the manuscripts kept burning for three months. In-numerous number of ancient Indian manuscripts carefully preserved for thousands of years were destroyed in this fire. Thousands of monks in the University were burnt alive and beheaded by Khilji’s army. According to DC Ahir, the destruction of these centres of learning at Nalanda and other places across northern India was responsible for the demise of ancient Indian scientific thought in mathematics, astronomy, alchemy, and anatomy.


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  1. Was greatly exalted reading. That main artical and the comments all. As an American student of Tibetan tantra reading about these ancient institutions felt like coming home to my true university roots. How I wish one could still go to these places. Jaya Bharat!

  2. Hi, Amith here from Bangalore. I would suggest you to refer a book by Sahana Singh – Educational Heritage of Ancient India. Also a brief talk on the same subject by her on U-tube for better understanding of the Glorious past of Indian Education

  3. I found this point in the above article “Education has always been given great prominence in Indian society since the times of the vedic civilization, with gurukul and ashrams being the centers of learning.”

    Is it. But lower caste people are not even allowed to enter gurukul at that time. Right. So how can this religion spread education. And most of the universities mentioned above are established by Buddhist monarchies. That is why countries like China and Japan came forward to fund those universities while India is rebuilding them.

    • Tarun Kanth has written in his comment, “But lower caste people are not even allowed to enter gurukul at that time. Right. So how can this religion spread education?” This is actually a common misconception that was spread by the British. All castes, including the shudras, had access to education in ancient India, right up to the British period. When the British were formulating their education policy for India during their initial days, they had conducted a large survey all over India to understand the then-prevalent education system. The official findings of the survey are still available in the archives of the British Government in London. They had found that the gurukulas in India used to admit students irrespective of gender or caste or economic status. In fact in some gurukulas, the shudra students far outnumbered Brahmin students. (Reference: “The Beautiful Tree” by Dharampal). Let us not forget that Nishad-raj was a class-mate of Sri Ram in the gurkul of sage Vashishtha. About a thousand years ago, king Bhoj was once humbled by a wood-cutter when the latter had pointed out a grammatical error that the king had made in his speech in Sanskrit.

      Later, as a part of their “Divide and Rule Policy”, the British had managed to systematically create animosity between the different castes, sects, communities and religions in India. Sadly, even today, people are of the opinion that such discrimination and bitterness used to prevail in ancient Indian society.

      • The two great Indian epics were authored NOT by Brahmans but by people who were supposedly relegated to the lowest ru uhng of the ladder of the Varnashram.For example–Vedvyas the author of Mahabharata, was the son of Satyavati,daughter of a fisherman: Valmiki, author of the Ramayana was also a Shudra, who earned his livelihood by unfair practices.
        As Shudra they shouldn’t have been exposed to educatin & learning,as has been repeatedly told for generations, but the fact is that works of such timeless excellence could not have been produced by persons of common
        merit.It there fore suggests that there certainly was a system which catered to the needs of upcoming students and helped them grow to their fullest potentialities.There was a saying
        that one could rise above his caste by conducting himself in the ideal fashion.A man could be a Brahman by his “karma”.
        कर्मेण ब्रह्मणः। Not by his birth.
        Deliberate lies had been spread only for keeping the Hindus divided and hostile to each other.
        Facts are sometimes stranger than fiction.
        TKB Sinha.

    • First of all there was nothing like caste in ancient Bharat, like you have mentioned that education was caste based. Castes were introduced by a britisher Herbert Risley on the false narrative of aryan theory. Ancient Bharat had Varn system. The admission in gurukuls were not varn based, neither passing criteria was. It was totally based on the capability of the student irrespective of the family he was born into. Manusmriti clearly states that every child at the time of birth is a shudr (irrespective of any birthparents). If he attains knowledge, he becomes brahmin. If he attains strength courage, he becomes a kshtriya. If he attains the skill of trading money making, he becomes a vaishy. And if he does not attain any of the above skills then he will remain as shudr and he will serve the above three. It has got nothing to do with the varn of his parents. AntiHindus states Karn-Dronacharya or eklavy-Dronacharya episode to showcase varn system in bad light. Little do they know that Karna was taught by Rishi Parshuram, who was even superior than guru Drona. Parshuram didn’t deny Karna because he was a SutPutr. Similarly Eklavya’s father was the chief commander in the army of Jarasandh(King of Magadh). Eklavya had thousands of options of gurukuls to learn from. Dronacharya was only oppointed for Hastinapur prince only. He didn’t even teach his own son Ashwathama. BR Chopra’s Mahabharat on Doordarshan tampered the history a lot in order to malign our varn system.

  4. Isn’t it important that all these universities were Buddhist institutions, established and supported by Buddhist Kings, it was they who opened this great treasure for all? Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t know any famous universities of Ancient Bharat which was built by any of the Major Hindu Kingdoms which was all across the sub-continent. Even though Takshila was a learning centre during Nanda-Maurya dynasty, it got its glory after King Ashoka started following Buddhism. It is true that by then our nation had already produced many advanced shastras, Vedas etc, but the treasure of knowledge was a privilege of select few. May be we should ask ourselves what was the element in our Hindu culture that was stopping the progress of learning/knowledge? What was stopping us from including all in this great learning process which could have given a greater boom to our culture? Is it the same issues that is still stopping us from exploring the greatness of knowledge and truth?

    • An impression has been sought to be created that ancient Hindus did not support education. As a matter of fact, Takshashila finds mention in the Mahabharata – and was the first place where there Mahabharata was recited; Varanasi, Madurai, Coimbatore, Udupi and many more centers have been centers of schools of Hindu learning that have had a continuous tradition of learning that was disrupted by various colonizing forces seeking to uproot the Indian tradition.

      There has been NO element of Hindu culture that stops learning and progress. Please quote any ONE SINGLE instruction from any of the Hindu Shrutis or Smritis that suggest blocking Knowledge. The Hindu tradition treats Knowledge as a River that should be allowed to flow unabated. Kindly do not read about Hinduism interpreted through Etic studies or by inadequately researched Emic sources.

      • As a person who lives in the uk, the whitewash of indian history and culture is so effective even the indians in india have no idea of their history.
        You mention takshashila mentioned in mahabharata, this means that this university is ancient, as graham hancock has determined through his research that this all happened about 11,000 years ago. Indian universities have been around for a long time, and india was a place where not only other asians came to learn, but also the greeks, and when the british came they took indian knowledge and made it theres as the pope told europeans to travel the world and convert all to christianity/catholicism, because that is superior and take all the riches and knowledge for their own. When you really look at newton etc, the stories really do not hold up, even freud took from india to create the id, super id and ego.
        Indians in india need to wake up and realise they have some sort of western amnesia……

  5. It is high time that the Indian Government opens their eyes and change the
    National Curriculum. The average student still thinks that there was a race
    called Aryans, ( the Aryan invasion) and that they migrated from Europe. The
    White British created this myth basically there was a racist, a German born
    Oxford linguist Friederich Max Müller, he was the most influential proponent of
    this theory. For the British this was important at that time in order to rule
    and control the Indian masses they need to show the white supremacy.

    The west will never give credit to India for the knowledge that India gave
    to the world, for them it is the ancient Greeks. There were no GEEK
    Universities during Takshila and Nalanda period, in fact all those so called
    Greek Philosophers and the rest learned everything from India, it is not the
    other way around. It is high time Indian government make changes and teach the
    Indian kids about their great history from the time of ‘Rig Veda’ the earliest
    civilization of the world… not Sumerians… not the Egyptians… I am a Sri
    Lankan, but to me Indians are the greatest people on earth. I hope the modern
    day young Indians will not change their way of living, imitating low standard
    white culture. This is why it is important to teach the young kids at schools
    the History of the Great Indians in order to preserve the Indian culture and values. In USA or in Britain they never teach about the Indian History. Just think why???

    • The british, and american establishment is racist, people don’t even notice it because they are not called racist names openly. but look at western medical books, all illnesses are shown on white people, all drugs are tested on white people, and when other races have the junk food of these countries, the people suffer so many health problems, india is beholden to britain and america, there is still an empire that exists and india and other countries refuse to stand up and change, the education curriculum in india is western, why? because it actually does create numb minded robots, whose creativity is stifled, if indias education system was changed india would see a huge change in its status but it works for the west to keep india in its place……

  6. Good to know the glorious past of Indian Universities. I hope the modern Indian Universities will learn from past and have research programs for the defense of the country including technical, cultural and military invasion and secretive attacks.

  7. King Dharampala of the Pala dynasty has been one of the greatest supporter of higher learning and established so many Shalas. Why were we not taught about him in school and college? I learned about Oxford and Cambridge, but not our own Shalas. You have left out Kanchi puram as one of the greatest centre of learning. In the Bhagavad Geetha Sri Krishna personifies in his own image the best of many aspects of the world, and says “Nagareshu Kaanchi”.

    And a thought on the word “shila”. It means stone in Samskritham, and appears to be unsuitable to describe a place of learning. I think that the original word could have been
    “shaala” which got corrupted to “shila” in colloquial Prakrit or Pali.

  8. In this context Indians must recall the ancient Indian Philosopher DANDEMI of TAXILA who in response to a question from ALEXANDER the Greek Invader- Who is the greatest ? He replied- “one who is immensely powerful yet harmless”. This is the legacy of India, created by the personalities like Emperor Chandragupta, Ashok and Kharbel who turned sanyasi at the peak of their power. It does not befit a nation like India- where people of all religion sought shelter and protection- to mistreat a given religious group. It is enough if others realize that India and Indians are immensely powerful yet harmless.

  9. I am happy I have come to know the richness in education …our ancestors wer soooo intelligent they use to welcome all …see we welcomed people they destroyed our wealth which was in form of knowledge …. Muslims remain dogs tail …. not alll muslims … only few who has such cunning mind …. I m very disappointed after reading this ….:(

  10. India, once the center of learning of the world, what happened to its inner national fabric that allowed few thousand wretched uncultured, illiterate British to rule over 300 million Indians? What happened to its national fabric that even to this day Indian intellectuals slavishly copy and dutifully submit to the West and become its pathetic appendage?

    • The knowledge did not percolate to the grass roots and the muslim impact was so huge , as they exploited and applied extreme tactics like kill or convert which was not the character of Indian fabric. life became full of terror and survival was a challenge . There is a famous Indian proverb prevalent in all languages , which summaries to ” if ones stomach is empty they can not understand god nor knowledge” That’s exactly what muslims and British targeted . Timeand again muslims world over have proved they are destroyers, killers abolishers , so to say BLACK SPIDERMAN i.e a parasite to Humanity!!

  11. ” Muslim invasion of India by the fanatic Bakhtiyar Khilji from Turkey in 1193 CE”

    FYI there was no Turkey in 1193 CE. Maybe you meant Turk instead of Turkey?
    Otherwise a very informative article.
    How come no universities south of Vindhyas find any mention in your list?



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